LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 4: Actor Rob Lowe attends the VH1 Big In 2002 Awards at the Olympic Stadium on December 4, 2002 in Los Angeles, California and Kimberly Williams of ABC's According To Jim during ABC Upfront 2002-2003 Season at Cipriani's 42nd Street in New York City, New York, United States.
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'The Christmas Shoes': The Story Behind The Tearjerker Holiday Song + Film

Sometimes a song is so special that it not only inspires a Christmas movie but a book adaptation as well. Over the years "The Christmas Shoes" by Christian group NewSong has become a classic and it all started with a little story that was circulating in the '90s. The tale helped create a timeless Christmas song so heartwarming that it has stood the test of time for over three decades.

St. Louis radio personality DC Chymes first read on the internet about a little boy trying to buy shoes for his dying mother. When he was unable to pay at the register, a kind stranger provided the rest of the money so that the son could go home with the gift. DC thought it would make a great song so he took it to NewSong's Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom.

"Eddie and I wrote the first verse and chorus but sat on it for a couple years because nobody really seemed interested in the idea," Ahlstrom told American Songwriter. "We finally finished it and I produced it myself, never imagining that it would mean so much to so many people, and that it would still be getting airplay years later."

Carswell then explained how the song turned into something bigger than they could have ever imagined.

"When we were working on the song I mentioned it to my friend Donna VanLiere and asked her what she thought of the idea," Carswell said. "She thought it sounded like a great idea for a book, which she wrote. Then it became a CBS movie of the week. Then Donna wrote another book called The Christmas Blessing that continued the story of the little boy, and CBS did another movie, and we wrote a song called 'The Christmas Blessing' that we sang with Rachel Lampa... It's just been amazing for a lot of people. And it all started with that one song."

With a song this sad, you know the film is going to be a real tearjerker. The CBS TV movie, which has since aired on numerous networks including the Christmas-crazed Hallmark Channel, centers around multiple intertwined storylines. Rob Lowe plays a lawyer, Robert Layton, who is having issues with his relationship with his wife Kate (Maria Del Mar) and daughter Lily (Amber Marshall) because he's a workaholic. But the main story follows Maggie Andrews (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) who is terminally ill and awaiting a heart transplant.

During the holiday season, Kate volunteers at her daughter's school, where Maggie's son Nathan also attends. Nathan (Max Morrow) hears his mother tell Kate that she met her husband at a dance studio and they loved going dancing every year for their anniversary. So Nathan sets out to make enough money to buy his mother a beautiful pair of shoes. In the process, he teaches Lowe's character a Christmas Eve lesson about the true meaning of family. Watching a young boy work hard saving up soda pop cans to buy the gift is moving and inspiring. Hugh Thompson, Dorian Harewood and Shirley Douglas co-star in this 2002 film, which is guaranteed to make you cry.

The film became the first in a trilogy of films (and books). Lowe returns in his original character for the sequel, 2005's The Christmas Blessing, which follows an adult Nathan Andrews (Neil Patrick Harris) returning to visit his father in his hometown. The third film, 2009's The Christmas Hope centered around a family of one of the sequel's minor characters, Sean. Watch all three this holiday season and try not to cry as you watch the inspiring stories unfold, knowing that it all came from a song and possibly a true story.

How to Watch 'The Christmas Shoes'

In 2022, the first film can be streamed at any time by FuboTV subscribers. It's also in the AMC (American Movie Classics) rotation, streaming on demand for AMC+ subscribers and airing on Mon., Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. EST as part of the network's Best Christmas Ever programming block.

This story originally ran on Nov. 25, 2020. It was updated on Dec. 7, 2022. 

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